Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

The Next Push In School Choice: Clarifying The Options

As students go back to school this month, more of them are expected to be enrolled in private schools thanks to the state’s rapidly expanding voucher system.

There’s also been a new push to make it easier for parents to find alternative schools.

The Institute for Quality Education—a school choice group based in Indianapolis—launched a website earlier this year that allows parents to shop around for schools.

“Parents in Indiana are really fortunate that they have so many options. Now that we have those options in place, the challenge is getting the information out to the parents,” says Tosha Salyers, a spokeswoman for the Institute for Quality Education. “The goal of the site is just that to teach parents what options are available.”

website demonstration

Institute for Quality Education spokeswoman Tosha Salyers demonstrates the myschooloptions.org website. (Photo Credit: Gretchen Frazee)

Myschooloptions.org is much like a website you would use to find an apartment or home.

You pick what kind of school you want: a traditional public school, charter school or private school. Then you can filter it down to the schools near you, find out if you qualify for a voucher, and, if so, how to apply for one.

The site got more than 20,000 page views this summer as parents decided where to enroll their students.

“We’re getting a really great response from parents and I think that they are thankful that there is sort of a one-stop shop where they can go and get all the information they need,” Salyers says.

Public education advocates are criticizing the website, saying it gives too much weight to student test scores and is helping drive students away from traditional public schools.

“If you call just about any public school in this state and you call that principal and [say], ‘can I come in and can I sit down with you and have you tell me about your school,’ I guarantee you they’ll be happy to oblige,” says Washington Township Parent Council President Kristina Frey. “That’s what I did when I looked at public school for my daughter, and you will get so much more out of that than you will be just looking at some website with test scores.”

Salyers says she agrees school letter grades don’t tell the whole story but emphasizes it is important to have access to them. The Institute for Quality Education plans to improve the website in the coming months, giving parents the ability to filter schools based on a range of other factors.

Last year, the state’s voucher program cost $40 million, up from $25 million the year before.

The number of students also increased from about 19,000 to more than 29,000.

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